As a country, Nigeria has relied on the proceeds of oil exports for so long. However, with the volatility of oil prices, and its implications on Nigeria’s foreign reserves, the country has no other choice but to work towards the diversification of the Nigerian economy by investing in other productive sectors of the economy.
The Agricultural sector is one of the critical non-oil sectors which has made significant contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) accounting for a 22.35 per cent and 23.78 per cent contribution to the overall GDP in the first and second quarters of 2021 respectively.
It was also instrumental in supporting the emergence of the economy from the recession in the 2nd half of 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic.
A key focus of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has been the deployment of mechanisms to ensure that agriculture thrives in Nigeria.
In fact, one of the key elements of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is to significantly grow the economy and achieve maximum welfare for the citizens by ensuring food and energy security.
Guaranteeing food security means ensuring availability and access across all demographics in the country. The current administration has leveraged innovation and mechanization in the agricultural sector by supporting the production of numerous commodities in which the country has comparative advantage, thereby guaranteeing the availability of these commodities to the masses.
Experts say food security cannot be attained if farmers are not encouraged and adequately equipped with access to the best inputs and opportunities to learn effective agronomic practices for improved yield. It is in line with this that the Federal Government has embarked on several initiatives to provide farmers with resources, input, and materials to cultivate.
It is for this reason that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is supporting the efforts of the Federal Government by providing affordable and accessible financing options to drive domestic food production.
From all indication, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) has remained a game changer in financing smallholder farmers through innovative funding models centred around building an effective agro-ecosystem, hinged on the value chain approach.
Through the programme, N788.03bn has been disbursed to about four million farmers through 23 Participating Financial Institutions (PFI). So far, 4.796 million hectares of farmlands have been cultivated under the programme covering 21 commodities.
To further enhance the government’s efforts towards food security, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, last week unveiled the brown revolution project, a scheme that seeks to end the importation of wheat in the near future and eventually, other grains.
The Brown Revolution
The Brown Revolution scheme was specifically targeted at replicating the gains recorded in the rice and maize value chains, which is consistent with solving Nigeria’s food insufficiency imbroglio.
The initiative also draws inspiration from the need to cut back on the $2bn spent annually in importing five million metric tons of wheat, thus depleting Nigeria’s foreign reserves and ballooning the unemployment figure.
With wheat being the third most widely consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice, the initiative is equally motivated by the Federal Government’s commitment to economic diversification, which finds expression in the mantra of ‘producing what we eat and eating what we produce’.
The CBN, the driver of the scheme, said that there exists an unflinching resolve to push the Brown Revolution to a higher pedestal, adding that the gains were becoming so manifest, especially with the expansion of crop production in Nigeria.
Based on statistics from the CBN, Nigeria only produces about one per cent (63,000 metric tons) of the 5-6 million metric tons of wheat consumed annually in Nigeria.
With the demand-supply gap being bridged with over $2bn spent annually on wheat importation, this has made wheat the second highest contributor to the country’s food import bill.
Given the high growth rate of the country’s population and the demographic structure, the demand for wheat is projected to continue to rise. This can only intensify pressure on the country’s reserves unless the government takes a decisive step to grow wheat locally.
Speaking while unveiling the first ever rain-fed wheat programme at the CBN-ABP Wheat Seed Multiplication Farm, Kwall, Basa, Plateau State recently, Emefiele, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, Mr Edward Lamtek Adamu, said that over the years, the availability of low-yielding seeds variety locally and poor agronomic practices have hampered successful cultivation of wheat in Nigeria.
He explained that this has led to low productivity, making wheat production unappealing to farmers and unattractive for private sector investments.
In order to change the situation and leverage domestic production to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country, the apex bank boss said the CBN has decided to add wheat to the list of focal commodities to be supported under the Bank’s agricultural intervention programmes.
This collaboration with key stakeholders, he noted, have culminated in the gains being witnessed under the CBN intervention in the agriculture sector.
The Governor said the Bank recognized that improved seeds varieties is the bedrock of any crop production process, adding that this informed why the CBN acquired high yielding varieties from Mexico with potential average yield per hectare of 5-7 metric tons as against a range of 0.8-1.8 metric tons yield per hectare of those varieties previously cultivated.